Who's the Woman, Who's the
At the end of He’s the Woman, She’s the Man Leslie
declares his love to Anita Yuen “I don’t care if you are a man or a woman.
I only know that I love you”. A happy ending to be sure – or is it?
This sequel begins with the same words, but then continues the story through
the many ups and downs of their relationship. In the same vein as the first
one, this film deals with issues of cross-dressing and gender and sexual
confusion. It doesn’t quite have the exhilarating sense of innovation and
comedic exuberance of HAWSAM, but it still generates a number of laughs
along with some touching and dramatic moments.
A brief recap of HAWSAM – Wing (Anita Yuen) pretends
to be a man so that she can try and get close to her pop idol – Carina
Lau. Instead she falls in love with Carina’s boyfriend Sam (Leslie Cheung)
and becomes a huge pop sensation herself. Of course everyone thinks she
is a man and she has to continue that charade through this film as she
has become this androgynous symbol of a new age.
Here she moves in with Sam but he soon realizes
that living with Anita is a different matter than loving Anita. It’s nice
to visit the zoo, but you don’t want to live there! Anita first invites
her friend Fish, Jordan Chan, to move in, then refurbishes the apartment
and throws bizarre costume parties – all of which are driving Sam crazy
and causing him song writer’s block. He is also bothered by the fact that
since he is living with Wing and everyone thinks Wing is a man – everyone
assumes he is gay. The look on Sam’s face is priceless when Wing
tells the world that she loves Sam at an awards ceremony.
At the same time a mysterious and legendary singer
has moved in downstairs – Fan Fan (Anita Mui) – and she ends up having
a drunken one nighter with Sam – he in a Woody Allen mask, Fan Fan in a
Whoopie Goldberg mask. It was a surrealistic and very weird love-making
To add to the theme of sexual confusion Jordan
falls for Fan Fan’s assistant (Theresa Lee) who is a Roller Girl type lesbian.
Jordan realizes this when he notices that they are both having fantasies
about the same person – Christie Chung ! – but he never gives up – going
so far as to shave his legs and wear a dress.
And it just gets more peculiar as Fan Fan becomes
attracted to Wing (thinking that Wing is a man) – but then Wing starts
getting strange thoughts regarding Fan Fan – like picturing her naked.
Leslie just watches in total horror as the two of them have a long – deep
– passionate kiss while filming a scene from Gone With the Wind.
I found all this very funny – there are some wonderful
small moments – the two workmen (Andy Hui being one) coming out of the
closet, Eric Tsang as Sam’s openly gay friend calling back a singer for
another audition, Anita stuffing her brassiere to make Sam happy. Part
of the amusement and adding to the sexual confusion comes from knowing
that HK gossip for years has been that Leslie is gay – and he has all but
Still I appreciated the very relaxed and causal
attitude this film takes towards the less than mainstream sexual content.
Though more serious than the first and not quite as magical, this is still
a wonderful film that somehow manages to be very commercial with non-commercial
From comments I have read though, it seems that
this film is often held in little esteem by many. I can’t quite understand
why unless it is because it falls a bit short from the first film or the
sexual themes go too far for some. Perhaps it was easier to find Leslie
falling in love with Wing in the first one a cuter more romantic concept
than Wing being attracted to Fan Fan who is in fact a woman.
My rating for the film: 8.0
Reviewed by YTSL
Many a Hong Kong movie sequel is made hurriedly
as well as pretty well immediately after the (surprising) success of the
original. Consequently and somewhat expectedly then, quite a few of them
end up being major disappointments (I'm thinking here of "The Bride with
White Hair" and "Fong Sai Yuk" 2 as opposed to 1). This is not the
case with this thoughtful effort, which only came out -- no pun intended!
– two years after "He's a Woman, She's a Man".
Story-wise, WHO'S THE WOMAN, WHO'S THE MAN?
does pick up immediately from the end of "He's a Woman, She's a Man" (so
it really would help its viewer(s) to have seen the first film).
Fairly early on in the film though, one starts to feel certain disparities
and discontinuities vis a vis that big U(nited) F(ilmmakers) O(rganization)
hit: Notably, in terms of Auntie (the Agony Aunt character played
by Eric Tsang) sporting a different hair-color as well as -style; and Wing
– somewhat annoyingly for me -- declaring a new character, Fan Fan (portrayed
by Anita Mui), to be her idol (whereas in "He's a Woman, She's a Man",
that honor went to Rose (played by Carina Lau)). I also sense a tonal
shift in that although this production continues to have many bright and
comic moments (including those furnished by Wing's friend, Fish (played
by the amusing Jordan Chan), and Fan Fan's assistant, O (who comes in the
form of the squeaky-voiced Theresa Lee)), a certain wistfulness and more
tears are evident here.
While there are many (more) interesting characters
in this absorbing movie, in some ways, the focus is now much more on Lam
Chi Wing (perfectly played by Anita Yuen). Viewed from a certain
perspective, the primary significance of the actions of Sam Koo (Leslie
Cheung reprising his "He's a Woman, She's a Man" role) and Fan Fan lie
in the consequence they have on (their relations with) Wing. Hopefully
without giving too much away, I will suggest that the main tale here concerns
Wing's making new discoveries about the precious commodity that is innocence
and suffering growing pains along the path that takes her from being a
childlike being to a bona fide adult.
I am not sure how many non-Cantonese speaking
Hong Kong movie fans are aware that in Cantonese (along with other forms
of Chinese like Hokkien and Mandarin as well as Kiswahili and Bahasa Malaysia!):
A single gender-neutral word covers the (different) ground(s) of the English
"he", "she" and "it"; and the word for "human" is effectively synonymous
with that for "adult". I additionally think that HK movie fans would
be well served if they realize that it is traditional practice for Chinese
people(s) to address unrelated familiars who are older -- and presumably
better... -- than them with a kin or other kind of honorary title attached
to their name (N.B. Fan Fan being addressed as "Fan Chea" (older sister
Fan) by Wing and O in this movie, and Sam being referred to as "Koo Sir"
by members of his production crew in "He's a Woman, She's a Man").
With this information in mind, I think that greater significance -- and
evidence for the points I made in the last paragraph! -- will be seen in
such occurrences as O, at a certain key point, calling Wing "Chea".
It also seems to me that however intriguing and diverting are the gender
and sexual shenanigans, it might do the (potential) viewer well to not
consider them the "be all and end all" of this seriously likeable film.
My rating for the film: 9.
to read an interesting article about the sexual themes of these two films.